Obama Abandoning Public Health Care Option?
Democracy Now's headlines for 7.7.09 and 7.8. (see below) included items on the Obama administration’s signals that it’s ready to abandon or perhaps has already effectively abandoned the public health plan option. (see below)
In that case, we can guess that Obama has bowed to the Republican wall of opposition and to the opposition of some of his wealthy corporate campaign contributors. No other U.S. president has so clearly enunciated the need for such a government run health care option so there is no question that he well understands the stakes involved.
The only questions are for the future. Will there be a health care reform bill signed by President Obama and if so will it be any real improvement over the current intolerable situation? And what will be the political ramifications for Obama and for the Democrats?
The sad or tragic thing about this episode – taken together with Obama’s serial betrayals on fixing the financial meltdown, civil liberties, Af-Pak, Iraq, Palestine, mountaintop removal, Don Siegelman – what else? – is what it shows about the character of our 44th president. We have just passed through (and we lucky ones have barely survived) the tough minded, focused, powerful presidency of Bush-Cheney and we could have wished for similar toughness in reversing their horrors.
Instead it seems that we’re saddled with another weak-willed, feckless and directionless Democrat leader. Followers of Walter Karp (Indispensable Enemies, and Liberty Under Siege) are seeing signs that Obama is following in the tradition of virtually all the Democratic presidential contenders after LBJ -- either they didn’t want the job or they only took it on condition that they wouldn’t have to lead from the Left. (Interesting that only Jimmy Carter is a partial exception to this phenomenon.)
So if Obama follows Bill Clinton’s trajectory, his healthy congressional margins will melt away starting in 2012 to the point where, like his predecessor, he can be our savior simply by playing defense against the Republicans.
Emmanuel: Obama Open to Dropping Public Health Plan
The Obama administration continues to downplay its stated commitment to a government-run public health insurance program. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said he thinks it’s more important to inject competition between insurance plans than it is to create a plan run by the government. Private insurers have opposed the public plan because they feel its cheaper costs would provide too much competition and potentially put them out of business. Emanuel’s comments echo recent statements from President Obama. At a White House news conference last month, Obama refused to call the public health proposal non-negotiable and said he hasn’t “drawn lines in the sand.”
President Obama, speaking June 23rd: “We are still early in this process. So, you know, we have not drawn lines in the sand, other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured. You know, those are the broad parameters that we’ve discussed.”
Obama Defends Commitment to Public Health Option
President Obama has issued a vague response to criticism his administration is backing away from its advocacy of a government-run public health insurance program. On Tuesday, Obama released a statement saying: “I] still believe… that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest. I look forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals.” The statement came hours after White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told the Wall Street Journal he think it’s more important to inject competition between insurance plans than it is to create a plan run by the government. Emmanuel instead said the White House could back a plan that would “trigger” a public option only if private insurers failed to provide suitable care.